How Will Brexit Affect Teaching English in Europe in 2021?

PLEASE NOTE: This article is intended for people who have a British passport and would like to live and work as English teachers in an EU country. All information is correct at time of publication.

It’s been just over a year since Britain officially left the European Union (EU). Despite apocalyptic Brexit warnings, our everyday lives, thankfully, have remained largely unchanged.

Of course, that’s not to say Brexit hasn’t impacted certain individuals and industries.

In general, it’s highly unlikely Brexit is going to affect the TEFL industry as a whole. English is still an international language, and the demand for English language learning will remain and continue to grow in EU countries and worldwide.

But there are significant changes for English teachers to keep in mind. Mainly, teaching on the continent is not as straightforward as it once was. Let’s take a closer look at the changes and how they could affect you…

What’s changed because of Brexit?

The main change that Brexit has brought is that it’s no longer as simple to travel to and teach in Europe. This is because freedom of movement has ended, so British citizens no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the EU. Therefore, if you want to teach legally in most EU countries, you must apply for a work permit.

How do I get a work permit?

In most cases, you’ll need a firm job offer from your chosen country to qualify for a work visa. 

The rules and requirements for obtaining a visa vary from country to country. You’ll also need to pay a visa application fee – the cost of which will depend on the country. There may also be processing fees, so it’s important to factor in such costs in your budget. 

Check the living in guide for the EU country you’d like to teach in for advice and updates on the exact visa processes. 

Are there any cases where I don’t need a work visa?

British citizens with a valid passport (with at least six months validity) can travel for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. Unfortunately, you will still need a visa if you want to teach during this time. However, if you want to volunteer, you might not need a work visa. Again, it’s important to check with the country’s relevant government website for specific advice. 

In some EU countries, like Spain, you can teach English on a student visa. For this route, you’ll need to apply for a programme that meets student visa requirements. There will be other stipulations, too. For instance, most countries let students on a visa work part-time, but some restrict the number of hours visa-holders can work.

What about teachers already in an EU country?

If you were teaching English in an EU country before 1 January 2021, you do have a significant advantage. The Withdrawal Agreement gives UK and EU nationals certainty that their citizens’ rights will be protected. Effectively, you can continue to live and work in the EU  legally. 

However, if you are a UK national, you may need to apply for new residence status in the EU country where you are living. This can depend on the length of time you’ve legally lived in that country. The deadline to apply for residency varies from country to country, and you can find out the deadline for a specific EU country here

How are TEFL employers’ reacting to Brexit?

COVID-19 has already impacted TEFL recruitment. There are fewer jobs advertised, so it’s difficult to determine employers’ reactions and their willingness to recruit from the UK for the time being. 

However, research from TEFL.com does provide some insight. The English language teaching job platform asked some of its EU recruitment partners for their views. Notably, answers were mixed, not unanimous, in terms of: 

  • Whether their nationality preferences had changed.
  • If they considered giving preference to teachers already in-country with their residence and rights to work in place.
  • Whether they would be prepared to apply and pay for work permits for future staff. 
  • If the current situation would make them reconsider hiring British teachers.

What’s the situation for non-UK teachers?

Historically, TEFL employers have favoured teachers from the UK because it was a lot easier and more affordable to hire them. After all, they didn’t need a work visa.

British teachers are now third-country nationals, like Americans, Canadians and Australians etc., who all need residence and work permits to teach English abroad. Therefore, Brexit has levelled this playing field, which will make it easier for non-UK teachers to work in the EU.

As employers will likely prefer to hire English speakers who don’t need a visa to live and work in Europe, Brexit has also put teachers in Ireland in a strong position. In fact, TEFL.com reports that the consensus from its research was that teachers from Ireland could now have a greater choice of EU jobs considering they remain European citizens. 

Are there any bright sides for British nationals?

Yes, Brexit has caused changes to teaching abroad, which isn’t helped by the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not all doom and gloom. 

It’s unlikely that the demand for English language learning will drop in the long term. Non-English-speaking people in Europe are still going to want – and need – to learn English. This means English language teachers will still be in demand in a post-Brexit world. 

What’s more, British teachers’ closeness to mainland Europe is a huge advantage. Remember, you don’t need a visa to visit an EU country for under 90 days. So, you have the option of searching for a job in person, which could increase your chances of finding a TEFL job and being hired to teach in Europe. 

How can I increase my chances of teaching in Europe?

Landing a job teaching in an EU country might not be as straightforward as it once was. But that’s not to say it will be impossible. Employers recognise high calibre teachers from around the world, and qualifications and experience play a big factor in employability.

Look at ways you can make yourself as strong a candidate as possible. For instance, you could take an advanced TEFL course and build your experience teaching English online or locally. How about becoming a volunteer reading helper in a primary school if you have the time?

The demand for TEFL teachers outside of Europe is huge, so it could be a good idea to cast your net wider too!

Top takeaways

  • British teachers need a working visa to teach in most EU countries.
  • If you already live in the EU, you must apply for residency by the date specified by the country you live in.
  • English language learning and the demand for English teachers isn’t going to go away because of Brexit.
  • Employers’ reactions to hiring British teachers are difficult to determine early on, particularly because of the COVID-19, but responses seem mixed.
  • TEFL demand worldwide, not just in the EU,  is huge – there are ample opportunities out there!

Want to find out more? Join our FREE webinar – TEFL Teachers in Europe after Brexit – on Thursday 1st April at 5pm (GMT). Register to attend and save your spot now. There’ll even be time to get your burning Brexit questions answered!

NOTE: This article is intended for people who have a British passport and would like to live and work as English teachers in an EU country. All information is correct at time of publication. We will do our best to keep you informed on any TEFL changes relating to Brexit but please keep up to date using other trusted sources like gov.uk.

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